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This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
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Friday, October 15, 2010

Use your head: eat cabbage

Cabbage – the ornamental kind in our gardens or the edible kind on our plates – is a sign that fall is upon us. Medieval English-speakers called it “cole” or, in the North of England, “kale”, since restricted to a particular curly-leaved type. But the ruling Norman French and their cooks used for this bulbous brassica a slang word for “head”: caboche, derived from the Latin caput (head). As French words were more prestigious, it won out, but “cole” can still be seen in “coleslaw” derived from the kool-salade (literally “cabbage salad”) brought by 17th-century Dutch immigrants to America.

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About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.